The E-Section has landed an exclusive interview with the legendary Santa Claus who recently participated in the Leesburg Holiday Parade. While he is extremely busy this time of year Santa had time to sit down over a cup of hot chocolate with us and discuss a few things.
How busy do you get during this time of year?
Of course, this is my busy time. With all of the parades and getting ready for Christmas Eve, I do not have much time to rest. The phrase "24/7" does not begin to describe how busy.
How do you get to all those houses?
That is a well-kept secret, which cannot be fully shared. Suffice to say that there is some magic in the air that night, which helps me.
What is your favorite type of cookie? Why?
They are all my favorite. In my eyes, the cookies left for me are a reflection of the children. I imagine they leave their favorite, which lets me be a part of their daily lives as well.
How is the naughty or nice list coming? Do you really check it twice?
The list is coming along "nicely" and I do check it twice. Most children make the nice list simply by doing what we expect of all others. Respect your parents, do your chores, complete your homework. You get the drift. We all do something we regret occasionally but that will not take you off the nice list.
Do the reindeer do any special training as you get closer to Christmas?
Well, when you ask how we manage to get to all the houses on Christmas Eve, the reindeer are a major component. They eat a special diet and get a good workout each day to prepare for the long journey. It is especially great when the kids leave carrots and water outside the front door so the reindeer can get extra nourishment. It is similar to the water stations in a marathon.
What do you do the rest of the year?
The reindeer and I settle in for a long winter’s nap.
Al Long, the deputy director of finance for the Town of Leesburg, claims that he portrayed Santa Claus in the Leesburg Holiday Parade. While the E-Section can neither confirm nor deny this, we have faith that the real Santa was there.
How did you get involved playing Santa?
When my children were small, my neighbor, Mike Ryan, would come to my house for my daughter’s birthday, which was Dec. 6. It was like the official kickoff for Christmas. We would invite all the other neighborhood children and he would hand out gifts and treats. Over the years, his adult children began to have children so I borrowed his costume, which his wife, Angie, hand made and would go to their house and play Santa for their neighborhood children.
Is the beard real?
No, but it is quite good as well as the hair. It is not made of cotton.
What is your favorite part about playing Santa?
Young children are so expressive with their happiness and love that it is a treasured time to be with them. They give you hugs and are genuine believers. I think it is also the spirit of the time, which is also special for me. Since my childhood it has been "magical."
What are children's reactions like for you?
Little ones can be afraid, so it is a personal challenge to get them comfortable with me. Some parents really help by not pushing them at me but letting them observe and slowly decide whether my lap is safe. Sometimes standing next to me works best. Some bring pictures of what they want and the older kids are there just to have fun as a group.
Is the suit comfortable?
Yes, the suit is comfortable when I am outside but warm when I am inside. Unfortunately, in the last couple of years I have not needed padding which, I suppose, leads to it being more comfortable as well.
What do you like most about Christmas?
Christmas time is filled with nostalgia and good times for me dating back to my childhood. Our house in Chicago was always decorated and I have continued that tradition on here in Virginia. I have a nine- and-a-half-foot tall carousal in my front yard and an eight-foot Ferris wheel. Both of these are motorized working models and were hand made. I have a lot of lights, which not only bring me enjoyment, but the decorations bring out the neighborhood children. Our neighborhood also has luminaries, the lighted candle bags, each Christmas Eve, which was another family tradition I brought from Chicago. To date, there has never been any issue with religion even though we have a fairly mixed neighborhood. I think our small little neighborhood appreciates the simple beauty and time to walk the neighborhood and socialize. This reminds me of the simple joys that children seem to experience this time of year.
What do you want Santa to bring you?
World peace? Wait, that is Miss America. A special ornament, my family home together for Christmas dinner, a Christmas tie or socks and any tool I do not yet have.
Do you play Santa on any other occasions than the parade?
I now have been to intensive care maternity wards, school functions and individual family functions including my own extended family in Chicago. Of course, the topper is the Town of Leesburg Parade Santa.